The Ballad of the Skeletons and the
2016 Republican Debates
by Todd McGovern
Having had a week to recover from the first of many debates between the Republican candidates for President, I keep coming back to the thought, “What would Allen Ginsberg have to say about this especially special collection of clowns?” Gone over 15 years now, think of all the American political fodder Ginsberg missed out on — the stolen 2000 election of George W. Bush, 9/11, the false claims of WMDs in Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, water boarding, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Bernie Madoff, the rise of the Tea Party….
In 1996, Ginsberg set his poem “The Ballad of the Skeletons” (which appeared the previous year in The Nation) to music with the help of Paul McCartney, Lenny Kaye, Philip Glass and others. Gus Van Zandt directed the stark video, which takes aim at American culture and politics.
A live version was performed by Allen Ginsberg and Paul McCartney at The Royal Albert Hall.